AP Reporter Slams ‘Seething’ Arizona Republicans for Trying to Keep Grand Canyon Open

In a piece filed today, Associated Press reporter Bob Christie and his editors provided a textbook example of how to use loaded language to tilt coverage while still being entirely accurate with the facts.

Covering a controversy in Arizona over the federal government’s closure of the Grand Canyon National Park and the state government’s attempts to keep it open, Christie painted the conflict as yet another example of angry Republicans run amok.

Describing how Arizona Republicans were “seething” was the lede of the piece and it clearly set the tone for the rest of it.

Regardless of whether Christie has done sufficient reporting to render judgment on the emotional states of other people, his story just as easily could have been about how the state’s governor, Republican Jan Brewer, was working to protect the economy of Northern Arizona. After all, nearly 4.5 million people visited the internationally known landmark in 2012 and spent millions of dollars in the region.

Strangely, this very important fact was utterly absent from Christie’s story. The AP reporter decided instead to frame Brewer and other Arizona Republicans’ actions as nothing more than spiteful hatred of the federal government and President Obama:

Arizona’s Republican leaders, known for picking fights with the federal government, are seething again now that the Grand Canyon is closed because of the budget crisis in Washington.

Gov. Jan Brewer wants the state’s signature national park reopened and has offered to pay for it with state money, but her proposal was rejected Thursday by a park official who said that as long as the federal government remains shut down, such a plan isn’t an option.

“I appreciate the support and I thanked them for the offer, but it’s not an offer we can accept,” said park superintendent Dave Uberuaga.

And why couldn’t he accept such an offer? Christie offers zero explanation even as he recounts later in his story how during a previous federal government shutdown, the Grand Canyon was actually reopened. Naturally, the AP reporter also placed this bit of history in the context of angry, almost Confederate Republicans trying to defy the feds:

Arizona leaders have a history of bumping heads with federal officials, including fights over illegal immigration and control of public lands. Brewer made headlines early last year when she pointed her finger at President Barack Obama. And in 1995, the last time a government shutdown closed the Grand Canyon, the governor called in the National Guard to get the site reopened.

Then-Gov. Fife Symington, a strong states’ rights supporter, led a convoy of unarmed troops to the park’s gate. They were met there by the superintendent who negotiated for a partial reopening if the budget impasse continued, Symington recalled in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press.

The shutdown was briefly solved, but when the parks were again closed a month later, the state paid more than $17,000 a day to keep the road to Mather Point and the Grand Canyon Village open.

“I think they knew that we were serious: We were going to open the park if they shut it and kept it shut,” said Symington, a Republican who battled the federal government on several fronts.

While current Arizona leaders don’t seem willing to go to such lengths to re-open the park during the present shutdown, it is quite apparent based on the history Christie did report that the superintendent has the authority to allow a state to pay for its operations.

But going the extra mile and asking a tough question like this is not the sort of thing that many reporters typically do so long as it might benefit a Republican.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013